Billy Porter on the thin line between fashion and pain : Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! Billy Porter is an absolute legend. With a career that started in his teens, he's now 3/4ths of the way to an EGOT. He's also a style icon, who's always the most fashionable person in any room he's in. His new movie is 80 For Brady, but what does he know about the Brady Bunch?

Sign up for Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org.

Billy Porter on the thin line between fashion and pain

Billy Porter on the thin line between fashion and pain

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1152554955/1200113453" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for The Recording A
Billy Porter in Los Angeles
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for The Recording A

Billy Porter thought he was going to be a preacher before discovering musical theater as a teenager and pursuing that instead. And, while a Tony, an Emmy, and a Grammy means he definitely made the right choice, We'd pay any amount of money to see a preacher wearing one of his red carpet looks.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Peter Grosz: So we have to ask, since we just mentioned it in our introduction of you, is that true? Were you going to be a preacher growing up?

Yeah, I grew up in the Pentecostal church. And, you know, in that space, when somebody felt a special energy coming over you, they called it the anointing. And when that happens, it means you're going to be a preacher.

How did you feel? Did you feel like you could see yourself as a preacher? Because as somebody who had a performative gene and an instinct, that must have been exciting.

You know? I took it on and I preached my first sermon when I was probably around ten or 11, and I knew immediately: NOPE

You're now a style and fashion icon in addition to everything else. Are there any things that you've worn on the red carpet that were extremely stylish, but also extremely uncomfortable? Then, during the award ceremony or whatever event that you're in, you're like, I'm going to change into some sweatpants because I'm going to sit here for 3 hours. I can't be sitting in this, like, birdcage looking cape thing or whatever.

Yeah, you have to think about that and think about what you're going to take off. Like, the hat that I went to the Grammys with, the one that opened and closed. Yep.

For people who don't know, it was this hat that sort of had this 360 degree curtain that was motorized. And it just opened up like a curtain in front of your face.

Oh, my God. It hurt so bad that it left a mark. It like, almost cut me, it left an indentation, it was so heavy!